I’m not a betting man. I would never have predicted France to beat the All Blacks in the 1999 Rugby World Cup semi-final, let alone predict that Japan would have beaten the Springboks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup pool stages. Had I had the courage to bet on those unlikely outcomes I would be paying someone else to write articles for me. But barring these freak occurrences the general impression I get about the sports betting industry is that, because their money is at stake, the bookmakers tend to employ people who put a decent amount of thought into the odds, considering statistics and form etc. Which is why the recent news that the bookmakers have the British and Irish Lions as favourites to win the upcoming series against Siya Kolisi’s men has left me trying to rationalise my blind optimism about the mighty Springboks’ chances. After all, until kick off on 2 November 2019 the Springboks had been outsiders to win the 2019 Rugby World Cup, maybe the bookies are wrong again?
In 2005 the All Blacks were overwhelming favourites to win the series against the Lions, and the bookies were bang on there. So too in 2009 in South Africa and 2013 Australia, with the bookies predicting the Boks to win at home and the Lions to win away for the first time since 1997. But what about in 2001? The bookies predicted a Lions’ series win, however, the Wallabies came away with a 2-1 series win. This was despite England being on an upward trajectory to being crowned world champions in 2003. In 2017 no one predicted a Lions win (or draw for that matter). Throw Covid-19 into the mix and surely the crystal ball becomes even more murky. Since the game kicked off again late in 2020, we have seen a host of upsets as far as the traditional international rivalries are concerned. Australia got hammered by a record margin by the All Blacks, only to win a week later against the same opponents in the Rugby Championship. The Wallabies and Los Pumas played to two draws in the Rugby Championship, whilst Argentina also surprised everyone and defeated the All Blacks by 10 points. Across the globe in the six nations Scotland beat England and France. I know, right?
Will the bookies be right about this Lions series? Against all odds the Springboks won the 2019 Rugby World Cup but haven’t played since then... The Lions haven’t lost a series in twelve years but are coming without their red army... I’m glad I’m not a betting man.